First on CNN: Republican operatives launch new group to elect GOP female governors

The group, called Right Direction Women, has set its sights on elevating Republican women to governors’ mansions across the country at a time when only three are currently occupied by Republican women: Kay Ivey of Alabama, Kim Reynolds of Iowa and Kristi Noem from South Dakota. .

Chaired by former New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, who broke barriers as the first Hispanic female governor in US history, the organization has a leadership roster of women who have prior experience recruiting and mentoring women in Republican positions. Its national co-chairs, Annie Dickerson and Marie Sanderson, have been involved in recruiting candidates before: Dickerson as founder of the Winning for Women Action Fund, which has worked to elect Republican women to federal office since the 2018 cycle, and Sanderson as a former policy director for the Republican Governors Association.

“2022 provides a crucial opportunity for Republicans to not only change the House and Senate, but also elect conservative women as CEOs of their states,” Sanderson said in a statement. “The women we seek to support are talented and credentialed, and Right Direction Women is excited to be involved in these critically important campaigns.”

People familiar with the effort said the group will go straight into the 2022 cycle with two endorsements coming up in Wisconsin and Arkansas, where former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and former Trump White House press secretary Sarah Sanders are competing in their races. respective primaries. One of the people familiar with the group said she will assess candidates on a case-by-case basis and could endorse both moderate Republican women and ultra-conservative women who have embraced former President Donald Trump’s falsehoods about the 2020 election.

“At the end of the day, we are looking for candidates with leadership skills, politics and common sense positions. As has always been the case, there are districts and states where Trump has always been more popular than others,” one person said. involved in efforts to elect Republican women, who requested anonymity because they are not directly affiliated with Right Direction Women.

In a statement to CNN, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley praised the group’s desire to “take on the good guys club from across the country.” Haley does not have a formal role with the group.

“I have personally seen the power of a great team and I know we must do more to support strong women leaders in their gubernatorial races,” Martinez added in a statement. “Right Direction Women will quickly become a key player in continuing to break glass ceilings for conservative women across the country and I am honored to be a part of that.”

At a time when Republicans seek to reverse the party’s weak appeal to college-educated suburban women, the group hopes its statewide recruiting efforts will work against that trend by presenting female voters with candidates they identify more with and face many of the same challenges and decisions that are front and center in these voters’ minds, especially when it comes to education.

“For women who are running for office and have school-age children, it gives them a unique way to engage with voters,” said the person involved in efforts to elect Republican women.

The rise of Right Direction Women illustrates a change in direction for the GOP, whose leaders have often condemned identity politics, as it seeks to diversify and broaden its appeal ahead of this fall’s midterm races. At a House Republican retreat last month, for example, Republicans gathered in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, to discuss a policy plan called “Engagement with America” ​​that they have developed with the goal of broadening the party’s appeal. beyond its predominantly white male base.

“In many ways, what we identified was a gap in the Republican ecosystem where electing women was simply not a priority and for many cycles it was an identified problem, but not a solved problem,” said one of the people familiar with the new group.

Still, previous efforts by Republicans to add more women to the party’s ranks have not always had positive results. Two freshmen members of the House Republican caucus, Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado, who were elected last cycle from Republican districts, have repeatedly drawn controversy for their offensive comments about minorities and bitter attacks on minorities. against his fellow legislators. .

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